Kelly takes Williamson to task on trucking safety

By: Rob McKay

WA transport innovator rejects seasoned academic’s industry critique

Kelly takes Williamson to task on trucking safety
Urszula Kelly says Ann Williamson is mistaken on safety issues


UC Logistics Australia MD Urszula Kelly has returned fire at professor Ann Williamson’s take on safety in trucking in a Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) column.

Raising her ire in particular was what Kelly casts as Williamson’s "unshakable assumption that vehicle maintenance and fatigue management are secondary to the industry", a stance she finds "offensive".

"On the contrary, they are paramount and we put a lot of time, effort and money into compliance. I find Williamson’s sensationalist generalisation ‘that the way the industry run its operation is a formula for death’ baseless and revolting," Kelly says in a letter to the editor seen by ATN.  

"Secondly in making such a radical statement that long hours cause truck crashes, I expect to see her provide more, or even some, evidence that supports that theory. Unless there are solid statistics that confirm the majority of accidents involving heavy vehicles happen after ‘X’ amount of driving hours, then shortening hours will not make roads safer.

"What Williamson should also consider in her opinion piece, is the avalanche of consequences that would come from cutting driving hours, including the impact on drivers of decreased income and cuts to superannuation contributions."

Kelly, who last year won the Young Professional of the Year Award at the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport Australia (CILTA) National Excellence in Transport and Logistics Awards, also tackled the long-serving transport industry academic on some of her assumptions.

"Williamson points out as the second major contribution to heavy vehicle accidents is productivity based rates; ‘They are not paid for waiting or loading and unloading freight,’ she says.

"This is incorrect. Drivers are paid ‘demurrage’ and if they are not, they should be having a good look at their contracts and asking themselves why they agreed to them."

The response goes on to examine work done to improve industry safety performance within and beyond the task at hand.

"The first is better dialogue between public and trucking industry. There are many misconceptions about the heavy haulage industry prompting general road users seeing our trucks as an inconvenience on the roads, rather than a critical part of EVERYDAY [sic] Australian life and the world’s economy.

"Some small steps were made last year to generate a better understanding but more engagement and commitment is needed from both sides. Mandatory training in the correct and safe way to drive around heavy vehicles as part of driving licence tests would be a good start.

"Secondly, shifting the mindset of our workforce from seeing fatigue management as troublesomeness, to a way of increasing health and wellbeing not just for themselves but those around them too. That will never be achieved by cutting hours, increasing fines and adding more regulations but by a patient, disciplined education.

"Thirdly, and I cannot emphasise this enough; pushing Chain Of Responsibility Laws on senders and receivers, rather than transport providers only. Any opinion on the state of the Transport and Logistics Industry should be based of understanding that we – transport providers – are only one single component of the operation which has many links in its chain."

While Kelly presents her final point as one in common, it is not entirely that.

"The one thing that Williamson says that I do agree with, is that ‘the objective of the long-distance road transport industry: freight forwarder, transport operator and driver, is to keep freight moving.’," she says

"That is correct, we keep freight moving so people and the economy flourish."


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